“I admit I am a big fan of food and beverages,” Italian photographer Ronni Campana tells us, as we question why encouraging his subjects to eat has become such a regular motif in his work. “Food is for everyone and everyone loves it.”
There’s no better example of the photographer shoehorning in a couple of snacks for his models than two recent projects: one for Garagisme magazine and the other, surprisingly, for a fashion brand Axel Arigato. Both feature Ronni directing his subjects as they sit in cars (another favourite photographic trope of his), and each shoot shows the models gorging gloriously on corn on the cobs, looping spoonfuls of spaghetti or folded pizza slices. “It is a great meeting point,” the photographer says of the habit of using food in his shoots. “Populations and communities around the world love their food, they improve it, mix it, match it and gloss it. From Puerto Rico to Vietnam, from pastrami to lasagne. You buy one pound of potatoes and you can making anything with it. I try to photograph food as I would eat it.”
When it comes to cars as a shoot setting, Ronni explains: “I just want to say that I love taking pictures of cars but I can’t stand driving.” In turn the photographer utilises cars as a symbol, “a good piece of a puzzle of modern society,” he says. “For some it’s the dream, for others it’s a nightmare, for me it is just an adorable subject to take a picture of.” In turn, when the founder of Garagisme got in contact suggesting “the idea to shoot close-ups of people eating food in their car,” Ronni leapt at the chance to make “a story inside vintage colourful cars, where real and made up situations are taking place.”
Working with stylist Riccardo Linarello, Ronni orchestrated not only outfits but “a range of random food” and the actions their characters would act, munching on cannolis or pouring coffee from a cafetière while sitting on plush leather seats. The next shoot for Axel Arigato followed, where “the mood was more or less ‘paparazzi’, basically catching people while they’re eating or literally catching them while biting or chewing the food.”
Taking a fair bit of coordination, especially as this was planned during lockdown, Ronni and the team prepared “all details meticulously and remotely,” selecting food ideas, the nine characters and locations, until lockdown loosened its grip and they could shoot. Once in the real-life setting, the photographer explains that shooting in this way also “doesn’t require any extremely diabolical direction” – although that’s arguably thanks to his planning. Finding that on set he can decide “the idea of what the final image on the monitor will be,” Ronni can leave the subject “to simply eat, in a relaxed way, seated in a planned position and just repeat the same hypnotic movement over and over, back, forward, left, right, in a loop.”
As a result, the funniest part of these shoots is the meals Ronni has put his subjects through, “an absolute Dadaist order” ranging from “mango ice cream, followed 20 minutes after by a double bacon cheeseburger, coconut juice, with smoked ham!” he says. “The whole thing spiced up with a pleasant temperature of 35 degrees Italian summer mugginess.” The hardest role, however, was taken up by “my loyal companion iPhone 5, with the amount of texts he dealt with.”
Making this latter shoot in the most recent ease of lockdown, Ronni concludes that during this difficult time “my creative practice always helped me,” he says. “Thinking about images helps me every day to feel happy, it is my first thought when I wake up and the last one in the evening when I have a beer on the sofa” – a sentiment that definitely comes across in these shoots.
Ronni Campana: Axel Arigato (Copyright © Ronni Campana, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.